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Professional Team

The Hebrew at the Center team consists of professionals passionate about Hebrew, second language acquisition and Jewish education writ large, experienced at working in a wide range of educational settings. Collectively, each person on the team brings her or his own Hebrew journey and field experience, personal values, and own special talents and interest to ensure a well-rounded team where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

Team members have academic, accreditation, and professional training in the following areas:

  • Curricular design
  • Assessment & evaluation
  • Early childhood education
  • Special education
  • Proficiency approach
  • Language planning
  • Sociolinguistics
  • Identity formation
  • Early childhood education
  • Coaching & mentoring
  • Onboarding novice teachers
  • Curricular integration
  • Educational theory
  • Change management
  • Mission & vision development
  • Lay & professional dynamics
Our staff are also experienced professionals, recognized for their expertise & knowledge in the field:
  • Served as senior leaders and executives at Jewish day schools and national organizations
  • Frequent presenters at Jewish educational conferences
  • Worked with more than 100 schools to strengthen their Hebrew programs

 

  • Publish in academic and professional journals
  • Leaders at second-language conferences at the regional, national and international level
  • Partner in creating  the Avant STAMP assessment tool for Hebrew
  • Associated with Prizmah, CASJE, Jewish Interactive, TalentEd, and others
  • Helped found the  Council for Hebrew Language and Culture in North America
  • Consult on Hebrew immersion programs such as charter schools and day camps

 

Whether responding to the immediacy of challenges surfaced during pandemics to the sustained multi-year projects such as Leading in Hebrew, the Hebrew at the Center team is nimble, intentional, persistent, and effective. Lifelong learners, our staff believes that Hebrew is an essential building block of a rich Jewish identity, connecting individuals to Jewish sources, values, history, peoplehood, and Israel

Leadership Team

RABBI ANDREW ERGAS
CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER
DR. ESTY GROSS
Chief of Staff and Director of Education
DR. RINA KREITMAN

DIRECTOR OF ACADEMIC INITIATIVES

BEN VORSPAN

DIRECTOR OF MARKETING AND COMMUNICATIONS
DR. CINDY DOLGIN

DATA OF MEMBERSHIP AND DATA

LIYA KAHAN
DIRECTOR OF INSTITUTIONAL ADVANCEMENT

Global Staff

PAULA LEVINE
PROJECT COORDINATOR
LEAH PICKHOLZ
EXECUTIVE ADMINISTRATOR & BUSINESS OFFICE MANAGER

Advisors & Senior Consultants

DR. JEREMY BENSTEIN
SENIOR CONSULTANT & SICHA BLOGGER
FRIEDA ROBINS
ADVISOR – EARLY CHILDHOOD
Michal Peles Almagor

Senior Advisor for Literature, Culture, and Language

SHERI AROTCHAS

SENIOR EDUCATIONAL CONSULTANT

FRAN PEARLMAN

SENIOR CONSULTANT, HEBREW & PART-TIME SETTINGS
Tal Janner-Klausner
Senior consultant: linguistic justice & gender
LIAT KADOSH

SENIOR EDUCATIONAL CONSULTANT

Coaches

HAMUTAL KEINAN
COACH
ORIT SHAKARGHI
COACH
ARIELA NEHEMNE
COACH

Join Hebrew teachers, Hebrew leaders, and other school leaders for an intensive, virtual conference on Sunday, April 3, 11:30 – 3:30 EDT. 

Click here for more information and to register

RABBI ANDREW ERGAS

CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER

Bringing over twenty-five years of involvement in Jewish education and leadership, Rabbi Andrew Ergas has served as the Executive Director of the Shames JCC on the Hudson and in similar role at the Jewish Community Project Downtown (JCP). Andrew also served for seven years as Head of School at Beit Rabban Day School on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. In the past, he served as Executive Director of the Association of Reform Zionists of America (ARZA), as a Director of the Union for Reform Judaism’s Youth Division, as a resident and day camp director for both Young Judaea and for JCC’s, and as an organizational management consultant.

Andrew was ordained in Jerusalem by the Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion, and holds master’s degrees in nonprofit management and in Hebrew literature. A graduate of the Harvard Graduate School of Education certificate program, Andrew is also a doctoral candidate in education at the Jewish Theological Seminary, with a research focus on Hebrew, identity and pedagogy.

A frequent lecturer and writer on Israel and Diaspora relations, Jewish history and effective change management within organizational life, Rabbi Ergas is recognized as a leading speaker and educator in the Jewish community and beyond. He is active in his home congregation and serves in a volunteer capacity as the Board Chair for the Council on Hebrew Language and Culture in North America. Andrew enjoys playing guitar, great movies, and spending time outdoors. Andrew lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. with his wife Jennifer and has three young adult sons, Erez, Natan and Ari.

DR. ESTY GROSS

CHIEF OF STAFF & DIRECTOR OF EDUCATION

Prior to joining the team at HATC, Dr. Gross served for five years as the Education Director for Hebrew Studies, Global Division for the Center for Educational Technology (CET), a leading provider of Hebrew curriculum and professional development for the Jewish educational field worldwide. She has worked within academia as a former Associate Coordinator of DeLeT L’Ivrit and currently serves as a Visiting Lecturer at DeLeT Lehoraat Ivrit at Hebrew Union College and as an Adjunct Professor in the MAT-TESOL program for the University of Southern California. Esty has over twenty-five years of field experience, starting as an English teacher in Israel, and upon moving to the United States, as a Hebrew teacher, Department Chair, Curriculum Specialist, Professional Development Consultant, and Director in leading Jewish day schools in the Los Angeles area.

A former Co-Chair of the National Association for Hebrew Teachers (NAHeT) and a member of the Council for Hebrew Language and Culture in North America, Esty has presented in countless schools and conferences and has written numerous articles, authored and co-authored textbooks, and is currently in the process of publishing two books on Hebrew pedagogy and equitable language education.

Esty received her doctorate in Educational Leadership at the University of Southern California, holds an M.A. in Management and Leadership in Education from Tel Aviv University, a Coordinator and Master Teacher Certificate from Hebrew College, and a B.A. in English Linguistics as well as a Teacher’s Diploma for Teaching English as a Second Language from Bar Ilan University.

DR. RINA KREITMAN

DIRECTOR OF PROFESSIONAL LEARNING

Dr. Rina Kreitman is a lecturer at the university of Kent, UK. Prior to her current role, she served as a research associate and a second language acquisition specialist at the National Foreign Language Center at the University of Maryland.
In addition to phonetics, phonology and morphology of Hebrew, her work explores applied linguistics, language acquisition and pedagogy of Hebrew and heritage learners. Previously, Rina directed Emory University’s Hebrew program, where she also lectured as faculty in Jewish Studies and Linguistics. Subsequently, she held a similar position at Columbia University and also lectured at University College London. Rina has published work on Modern Hebrew linguistics and pedagogy in books and journals, presented at numerous conferences and trained college lecturers and Hebrew teachers in pedagogical practices. She is a native/heritage speaker in Hebrew, English and Russian, with additional skills in French, Spanish and Italian. A graduate of Tel Aviv University in linguistics, Rina earned her master’s and doctorate at Cornell University, where her dissertation focused on Hebrew phonetics and phonology.

BEN VORSPAN

DIRECTOR OF MARKETING AND COMMUNICATIONS

Ben has been serving the nonprofit community for more than twenty years,
and during that time, has built a reputation for the creativity that he brings to nonprofit marketing, communications, fundraising, programming and membership engagement.
After graduating from UC Santa Barbara with a degree in religious studies, Ben began working in marketing, communications, and creative roles with an assortment of organizations, including the Hebrew Union College, The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, Temple Aliyah and Valley Beth Shalom Day School.
In 2007, Ben founded Inspired Multimedia, Inc., a consulting firm specializing in working with nonprofit organizations around the world to build websites and improve marketing efforts. During that time, he also helped found and run a thriving group for young professionals in the Los Angeles area, receiving national recognition and grants.
Ben enjoys playing music, cooking and working with his hands, and lives in Los Angeles where he is married to Elana, a fellow nonprofit professional, and has two brilliant and creative children, Evan and Judah.

DR. CINDY DOLGIN, EdD

DATA MANAGER AND ANALYST

Since high school, Cindy’s personal mission statement has been, “I am a servant of K’lal Yisrael.” Although her natural inclination was to be an educator, Cindy also wanted to make Aliyah and be financially self-sufficient, so she set out to develop tech skills that would be transferable to establishing a career in Israel. Cindy’s first career was in database management and systems analysis, first in banking, then in high tech, and mostly in Israel. Cindy has since had a long and fulfilling second career in Jewish education, based in New York, teaching children, teachers, and adult learners, and leading departments, curriculum development projects, divisions, and schools.

In addition to being certified in Systems Design and Analysis by the Sivan Institute in Tel Aviv, Cindy holds a BA in Economics/Management Information Systems and Near Eastern Studies from University of Michigan, an MA in Jewish Education from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, and a doctorate in Religion and Education from Teachers College, Columbia University. Her area of doctoral research was in teacher learning and professional culture. Cindy began learning Hebrew in earnest while in college, studied for one year at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and over the years returned again and again to Ulpan and to a well-known Hebrew language tutor in Tel Aviv, in order to become fluent and proficient in all aspects of Biblical, Rabbinic and modern Hebrew.

Having grown up in an actively involved Reform Jewish family with strong roots in synagogue, youth group, and Jewish camping, Cindy has been a teacher and leader in every aspect of Jewish congregational and day schools across the religious spectrum, as well as in the Ramah camping movement. Her first career in systems design and analysis always informed Cindy’s work, and she became the unofficial “guardian of the data” at every school in which she worked. Cindy served for seven years as Head of School at the Schechter School of Long Island, with a staff and faculty of 100 professionals, teaching and nurturing hundreds of students from Kindergarten through 12th grade, until they would head off to elite colleges, universities, the US or Israeli military, or gap year programs in North America and Israel. Cindy is so proud that her own children and all SSLI alumni step into the world fortified with powerful learning and leadership habits, Jewish identities, and Hebrew language skills.

Early in the pandemic, Cindy returned to the physical and virtual classroom as a Jewish day school teacher, teaching middle school English at Ramaz and elementary Hebrew and Judaic studies at Schechter School of Long Island. In her spare time, Cindy studies Daf Yomi, tends to her garden, creates new recipes in her kitchen, and frequently visits her children and adorable grandson in Israel.

Liya Kahan

DIRECTOR OF INSTITUTIONAL ADVANCEMENT

Liya has over a decade of experience working in development within higher education and the Jewish non-profit sector. Prior to joining HATC, Liya worked at Columbia University as Senior Associate Director where she managed a team and was responsible for all fundraising efforts from Columbia’s undergraduate recent alumni. Before working at Columbia, Liya served as Associate Director of the Annual Campaign at the Jewish Community Project of Lower Manhattan, where she worked closely with the Board of Directors and Development Committee to achieve the organization’s fundraising goals. Liya began her career in development during her time as a student at Brandeis University, where she worked in different roles within Brandeis’ Department of Institutional Advancement. 
 
Liya holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Anthropology from Brandeis University and Masters of Science in Nonprofit Management from Columbia University. 
 
Liya was born in Jerusalem, Israel and grew up abroad, living in Ethiopia, Swaziland, Myanmar, and Italy. She moved to the United States to attend Brandeis University. Liya currently lives in Tenafly, NJ with her husband, Ross, and two young children, Levi and Rafael. 

PAULA LEVINE

PROJECT COORDINATOR

Paula has held key leadership roles with Temple Israel of Natick , United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism and the Bureau of Jewish Education. At Temple Israel she has held the position of President, Executive Vice-President, and chair of several committees. Paula has been Education Vice-President of the New England Region of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism and for a number of years sat on the National Board of Directors. She was President of the Boston Bureau of Jewish Education and a member of the Board of Directors of Combined Jewish Philanthropies and maintained a seat on the Family Education Task Force. She brings the same organizational skills to Hebrew At The Center as she did to her synagogue, the Conservative movement and Jewish education for more than thirty-five years. Paula is the mother of one day-school graduate daughter and Savta to two grandchildren, both of whom attend day school in Washington, D.C
paulal@hebrewatthecenter.org

LEAH PICKHOLZ
Executive And Business Office Assistant
Leah joined Hebrew at the Center in 2018. She assists the CEO, and supports her with board-related matters. She also attends to bookkeeping, HR matters, and support for HATC development program. Prior to joining HATC, Leah worked as a substitute teacher at the Hopkinton school system, fulfilling her passion to teach and nurture children. For over 20 years Leah worked with her husband as the office administrator and marketing director at their music production studio. Leah helped organize numerous benefit events and recitals and attended to the administrative and financial duties of the studio’s office. Leah grew up in Tel Aviv Israel. She served in the IDF as a communication specialist. Leah attended Tel-Aviv University where she earned a B.A, majoring in Political Science. While attending school, she taught music and was a Hebrew tutor and continued to do so when she first moved to the United States. Besides Hebrew and Israeli culture, Leah is passionate about Jazz and Classical music and loves to read. Her “guilty pleasure” is spy mystery novels i.e. books by Daniel Silva, Barry Eisler, and others.
DR. JEREMY BENSTEIN
SENIOR CONSULTANT & SICHA BLOGGER

Dr. Jeremy Benstein is an educator, author, and Hebrew lover. He holds a BA in linguistics from Harvard, a master’s degree in Judaic studies from the Schechter Institute in Jerusalem, and a doctorate in cultural anthropology from Hebrew University. He grew up in the Midwest and moved to Israel over 35 years ago. Along the way, he helped found the Heschel Center for Sustainability in Tel Aviv.
He is currently the managing editor of 929-English (Tanakh: Age-Old Text, New Perspectives – www.929.org.il) and lives in Zichron Yaakov with his wife, Prof. Annabel Herzog, five children, two cats, and many books. He is the author of two books. The first, The Way Into Judaism and the Environment (Jewish Lights, 2006), is an outgrowth of his work on Jewish studies and environmental issues. His most recent one, Hebrew Roots, Jewish Routes: A Tribal Language In a Global World (Behrman House, 2019) is a labor of love for and about the Hebrew language and its role in Jewish history, identity, and peoplehood. He has written and lectured widely on the topic of Hebrew and Jewish peoplehood and identity in North America and Israel.

FRIEDA ROBINS
Advisor – Early Childhood

Frieda was the Lead Educator of Ma’alah, Early Childhood Hebrew Immersion Network at the William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education at the Jewish Theological Seminary, also funded by The Covenant Foundation. At JTS she had also directed a program of Judaic Enrichment for Early Childhood Educators. These pilot programs were later replicated in various educational settings throughout the country. Frieda has also served as Director of Early Childhood Programs at Camp Ramah of New England. Before joining JTS, Frieda taught at the New City Jewish Center for 16 years in the religious school, preschool and Hebrew for adults, and at Rockland Community College. She holds a Masters in Jewish Education from JTS and was a doctoral candidate in Jewish Education there. Her research interests include early childhood Jewish education and Hebrew language education and evaluation. Frieda concentrates on professional development for early childhood educators both in Hebrew proficiency education and assessment and in Judaic studies. She has published studies on the Hebrew language immersion program at Camp Ramah, Judaic enrichment as change agent and scholarly research in Hebrew Immersion. Frieda is an ELLOPA (Early Language Listening and Oral Proficiency Assessment) trainer and tester with CAL (Center for Applied Linguistics), specializing in Early Childhood Hebrew language assessment.

Michal Peles Almagor | מיכל פלס אלמגור

Michal Peles Almagor is a Postdoctoral fellow at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a Research Fellow and Tel Aviv University, where she teaches literature and theater arts. She was previously a postdoctoral fellow at the Franz Rosenzweig Minerva Research Center for German-Jewish Literature and Cultural History. Her research interest includes Jewish multilingualism and Israel-diaspora relations, focusing on Hebrew literature from a transnational perspective; German-Jewish literature before Shoah; and Israeli and Jewish theater. Michal earned her PhD at the University of Chicago, where she also taught courses on Jewish literature, modern theater, and advanced Hebrew. Michal lived in Chicago for seven years, where she also had the opportunity to reflect on contemporary exchanges between Hebrew and English languages. Since 2019, Michal has been working as an educational consultant, specializing in developing curricula and introducing Hebrew and Israeli literature and culture to Jewish-American communities. Prior to pursuing her doctorate degree, Michal worked in the Israeli theater. She is the author of the short play “With a Year Passing By,” which features at Tzavta Theater, and the director of several productions including Harold Pinter’s “Night” (Habima Theater) and two children’s plays based on H.N Bialik’s tales. Her publications span a wide range of Hebrew writers such as Leah Goldberg, Shmuel Yosef Agnon, David Vogel, Nissim Aloni, and the contemporary Yael Ne’eman. In 2022, her work received the Leo Baeck Prize for the study of German Jewish history and culture.

LIAT KADOSH

DIRECTOR OF DAY SCHOOL SERVICES

Liat has over 25 years of experience teaching Hebrew to students and adults in Israel and the United States. She has been involved with HATC since its founding in 2007 and is a member of HATC’s Educational Leadership Team (ELT). Liat directs the LIH-Leading in Hebrew project and has worked with multiple schools throughout North America and served as the coordinator of the Atlanta Regional Hebrew Initiative from 2010 to 2014. Living in Atlanta, Georgia, Liat served as the Director of Hebrew at Atlanta’s Jewish Academy (2YO-12th grade). Previously, Liat was the Hebrew Language Director at The Epstein Middle School, Hebrew Language Coordinator at the Yeshiva High School of Atlanta, a Hebrew language instructor at Emory University in Atlanta and a member in the SATII Hebrew subject test committee of the College Board. Prior to moving to Atlanta, Liat taught Hebrew, wrote curriculum, and coordinated Hebrew language instruction support for students that learn differently( LD) at Gann Academy, in Waltham, MA. In Israel, Liat served as the Director of the Ulpan at the Givat Washington High School campus and as co-director of the high- School. She holds a BA, Teaching License, and Educational Leadership Diploma from Bar Ilan University and an MA in Jewish Education from Siegal College of Judaic Studies, Ohio. Liat is an ACTFL-certified OPI tester, and the founder of HHH: Hador H’bah Hebrew ; booklets to enhance Hebrew reading for students that learn Hebrew as a second language.
LORI SAGARIN
SENIOR CONSULTANT, HEBREW & PART-TIME SETTINGS

Lori B Sagarin, RJE, has served as the Director of Congregational Learning at Temple Beth Israel in Skokie, Illinois, since 1995. Lori completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Wisconsin. After graduating from the Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion with a Master’s of Jewish Education, she began her professional career in St. Louis, serving as the Director of the Commission on Reform Jewish Education. While in St. Louis, she met and married her husband, Rabbi Jim Sagarin. A former president of the National Association of Temple Educators (now ARJE), Lori is also the past president of the Chicago Association of Reform Jewish Educators. In addition to formerly serving on the advisory boards for NEXTBOOK and Project Esther, Lori is also member of the professional team at the iCenter, with a focus on Hebrew and Hebrew engagement. Since 1993, Lori has served on the faculty of OSRUI, URJ’s residential camp in Wisconsin, and currently serves as chair of its education committee. In 2009, Lori received an honorary doctorate in Jewish Religious Education for 25 years of dedicated service.

TAL JANNER-KLAUSNER
SENIOR CONSULTANT: LINGUISTIC JUSTICE & GENDER

Tal researches education, languages, history, and the connections between them. They are the pedagogical coordinator for Hebrew at “This Is Not An Ulpan”; an alternative, community language school for adult learners of Hebrew and Arabic. Tal has over ten years experience in language instruction, teacher training, curriculum and resource development. They specialise in Content Based Instruction, Critical/Dialogic Pedagogy, participatory curriculum development, and teaching in multicultural contexts.

Additionally, Tal is a public speaker and writer on issues of linguistic justice, such as gender-inclusive Hebrew, and the relationship between Hebrew and Arabic in Israel today.

They completed their MA in Hebrew Language Pedagogy at Middlebury College, specialising in gender issues in Hebrew language and instruction. They also hold a Teaching Certification in History for middle and upper schools from the Israeli Open University, and a BA in History from University College London.

Tal moved from Jerusalem to London as a child. In London they worked in Jewish education, LGBT+ education, and co-founded the community language school and migrant support project “Babel’s Blessing”. Tal returned to live in Jerusalem in 2016 and has recently joined the team behind The Non-Binary Hebrew Project.

Outside of work, Tal creates Hebrew calligraphic art and enjoys long distance hikes and open water swimming.

MERAV LEVY
COACH
Meirav Levy has been an educator for 24 years in her native Israel and in the U.S. A graduate of Kay College, she earned her teaching certificate from the Israeli’s Ministry of Education. For 13 years, Meirav taught grades 2 – 6 and served as the Language Coordinator at Amirim Elementary School in Israel. For the last 11 years, she taught Hebrew to grades 3 – 8 at the Seattle Jewish Community School. Over the last three years as a coordinator, she has also created the Hebrew curriculum and guided teachers to implement the proficiency approach. Meirav enjoys implementing graphic design and technology into learning units and interactive games. And in her curricula, she stresses connections between Hebrew, Jewish identity and culture.
HAMUTAL KEINAN
Coach

Hamutal Keinan was a member of the first HATC TELEM cohort and works as an HATC coach. She recently joined the staff of Luria Academy of Brooklyn. Previously, she served as a Hebrew and Bible teacher at the Epstein School in Atlanta, Georgia. Prior to teaching at Epstein, Hamutal worked as a Language Coordinator at the Balfour Elementary School in Tel Aviv, Israel.
In this role, she created curricula and new teaching materials, led professional development, and provided guidance to teachers.
Hamutal is a certified Educational Evaluator Specialist and holds a Master’s in Special Education.
She believes strongly in using assessment tools to evaluate students’ progress and their growth in acquiring a second language. She works hard to incorporate creative work into the process of learning Hebrew as a second language by incorporating music, poetry, digital learning into her classroom.

ORIT SHAKARGHI
Coach

Having completed the 18-month TELEM program in June of 2018, Orit became an HATC coach working with schools throughout North America.
In addition, since 2012, Orit has been teaching Hebrew at Associated Hebrew Schools (AHS) where she also served as the Head Teacher of the Hebrew Department, at Danilack Middle School Hurwitz Education Center, mentoring and coaching Hebrew teachers, as well as special education teachers for all Middle School grades. She also serves as a resource teacher for all Judaic studies students. Orit graduated with Honors from Ben Gurion University with a BA in Education and Literacy and received an Honours Master of Special Education from Academic Studies Center, Or Yehuda, Israel, a Teaching Diploma in Special Education for K-9 in Beer Sheva, Israel, and completed the AHS coaching and mentorship training program.

ARIELA NEHEMNE

COACH

Ariela Nehemne was born and raised in Jerusalem, Israel and has been teaching for 24 years. She received her degree in psychology from the Open University in Jerusalem and studied at Ramat Gan College Hacker Software School, where she became a Microsoft Solution Certified Developer (MCSD).
In addition, in June of 2018, she completed HATC’s 18-month TELEM program and became an HATC coach working with schools throughout North America.
In Israel, Ariela was a teacher for children with special needs and hearing impairments and a technology teacher for elementary and middle school.
Ariela moved to Los Angeles in 2003 and studied early childhood education at the UCLA extension school.
Since 2003, Ariela has taught Hebrew and Judaic Studies at Pressman Academy and subsequently at Valley Beth Shalom Harold M. Schulweis Day School where she also served as the school’s Hebrew at the Center coordinator and teacher mentor. Currently, she is a Hebrew and Judaic studies teacher at Ilan Ramon Day School in Agoura Hills, California where she also mentors teachers and writes curriculum for grades pre-K through 2.
Ariela received the Sabati Patt Teacher of the Year Award in June, 2010 and the Milken Jewish Educator Award in October, 2014.
Ariela speaks Hebrew, English, Sign Language (for the hearing impaired) and Romanian.